There’s been a lot of coverage in the media over the past few days in relation to Facebook and privacy, in particular in relation to the fact that despite the fact that the minimum age for accessing the platform is 13, there are members who haven’t been truthful about their age in order to gain access – as children do!

So, with this in mind and given the fact that Facebook have updated their platform quite recently, we thought now would be an ideal time to look at Facebook Privacy and how you can work with younger members of the family in order to try and minimise any risk.

Passwords & emails

Create the account with your teenager and ensure that you have full access to both at all times.  It’s not that difficult to update either so log in regularly to make sure it hasn’t been updated.

Create an account for yourself 

Not everybody has a Facebook account but if your teenager has, we think you should create one for yourself even if you never intend to use it.  Knowledge is power and if you don’t know what it’s like first hand you won’t be comfortable with monitoring the younger members of the family.  Whilst another older person might tip you off if they spot something they’re not comfortable with, ultimately your teen is your responsibility so you need to be there too.

Add your friend as a child

A lot of teenagers might not be too happy to have Mam or Dad on their list of friends, but make it a condition of use for them.  Assure them you won’t embarrass them and our advice would be not to interact too frequently.  They may not forget you’re on their friend list but they’ll relax a little more if they don’t see a comment from you every time they log in, even if you are watching their every post.

Adjust the privacy settings

To access your privacy settings, click Account on the top right and Privacy Settings

Facebook Privacy September 2011 The Marketing ShopThere are three options here and these are important to know if you’re a Facebook user;

– Public; everybody on the web, not just all your friends or friends of friends but anybody anwhere in the world

– Friends; those friends you have on your Facebook friends list

– Custom; a list of Facebook friends that you have categorised e.g. family, friends, work, school, college, etc.

These are the default options i.e you are opted in to these, particularly for applications such as those on a phone where you don’t have the option to select who you share your updates with (see here for a previous post on sharing updates).

Custom is our recommended option for teenagers, or those who aren’t particularly familiar with the web.  Within this option you can select to share with Friends of Friends (your friend’s friends) or Friends (your friends) or Specific People (specific people) or even Only Me.

Within the Custom field you also have the option to Hide This From and within this section you can select specific people, or a list of people you may have created from your Friend list.  One list that we strongly recommend you create for your teenager is a “business” list i.e. those businesses who are incorrectly using a profile when they should be using a page as none of us know who is actually using that list do we?  Ideally your teens would refuse any friend requests from a business but as teens can be competitive looking for more friends than their friends, what’s to stop them befriending an inappropriate business such as a bar?  A page will have age filters and therefore a minor should not be able to “like” such a business providing the page has been created properly.

In addition to the above, you also need to pay careful attention to the other areas of Facebook that need to be addressed;

Facebook Privacy Settings - September 2011 - TheMarketingShop.ieThese sections relate to people you connect with i.e. can post to your facebook wall or you can post to theirs, can send messages to, can tag in posts or photos.  We would recommend that you adjust settings on the following screens:

Facebook Privacy Controls September 2011 The Marketing ShopAs you’ll see you can can choose Everyone (anybody in the world with Facebook access), Friends (those confirmed on a friend list) or Friends of Friends (friend’s friends).  If you set your teens privacy settings at Friends, only those they actually have confirmed or requested as friends can send or post a message for example.  Note you will need to adjust each section individually as you can opt to have messages from friends of friends for example but allow only friends to post to your wall.

Tags is an important setting that everybody should adjust and this relates to posts that you may be tagged in by a friend.

Facebook Tagging September 2011 The Marketing Shop

Where you are tagged in a post you can choose whether to review the tag by updating these options and we would recommend that particularly in the case of a teenager so that they have the option to review the tag before it’s posted to Facebook.

Facebook Privacy Apps Settings September 2011 The Marketing ShopOn each of these you can individually update the information you share with applications you choose to use.  As a guide, we would retain apps or games on our profile that we like to use and where there is an option to remove anything other than the email address we remove everything.  There is of course the option to turn off all applications but this would mean no applications are available for use and that would include popular Facebook games such as Farmville.

One that many people don’t know to update is Public Search – you can decide whether or not to allow people to search for you by name on Facebook, but read the details carefully if you decide to enable this option.

A final one to watch for in this area is the Block lists where you can specifically block people by name or email address, which can come in very handy for unsolicited friend requests from strangers who can be reported to Facebook if there are concerns.

Parents on facebook

Often parents adjust a child’s privacy settings paying little heed to their own, so even though you’re older and wiser and would spot something that’s not quite right, you should ensure that your own settings are set to a standard that you are comfortable with.

And, if you’ve be-friended your teens on Facebook, you may like to customise who you share your posts or photos if you’d prefer not to have your teen be aware of your every update – remember, you can choose your audience with every update if you’re on a laptop or PC.

Talk to the family

Although teens are often quite clued in and far more capable of using technology than their parents, they can be more naive than they’re assumed to be and often don’t realise how quickly information spreads on the internet.  They don’t think that friends may share their photos, or that by having their profile visible to everyone that they may potentially be exposing themselves to danger.

Similarly older people may not realise that there are privacy controls as it’s not something they use everyday.

Be open about who is using Facebook in the family and how you can protect yourself and your reputation online – after all future boyfriends/girlfriends/friends/employers may just find the information too.


Facebook is a fantastic platform for keeping in touch with friends and family, home or overseas and it’s opened up a whole new world to many people.  However, it’s evolving all the time so you need to ensure that you are up to date on the latest developments and regularly check your privacy settings to ensure that you’re still happy with what you’re sharing with others.  And remember, that teens will always try and outwit you so you need to trust your instincts as if something doesn’t look right it probably isn’t and you as a parent will always be far more responsible for the actions of a teen on Facebook than the most rigorous controls any company can put in place.


Images copyright Facebook.com


Debbie McDonnell is the owner of TheMarketingShop.ie who work with SMEs across a range of sectors in Social Media, Digital Marketing & Traditional Marketing. She has worked with major brands on and offline, is a Graduate of both The Marketing Institute of Ireland and The Digital Marketing Institute and has over 20 years professional experience.





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